Should a person with dementia attend a funeral?

When a relative of a person with dementia dies, forgetting the news of the death can cause the person trauma: They think this is the first time they have been told… Why have they not been told before?

They grieve and then forget, and so grieve all over again the next time the death is mentioned. If they have lost the ability to form short term memories, then no amount of reminding will ‘help’ them to remember.

This leads us to question whether it is sensible or fair to take the person with dementia to the funeral. It is a cultural expectation that they should attend, but should we be putting them through such a traumatic experience, for the ‘benefit’ of others? They wonder why they are there, then are upset that the person has died, grieve and forget again.

This is no reflection of how the person with dementia felt towards the deceased. Family need to be together in their understanding, but unfortunately there are sometimes members (often their sibling children) who disagree. This inevitably causes further emotional upset in the family beyond the person with dementia.

So ask yourselves – will it benefit the person with dementia to be there? If it will not and might cause them harm and distress, then I would gently suggest that it is kinder not to take them. If at all possible, try to discuss this situation before the funeral and agree on the action to take.

If you are a relative attending a funeral and the person with dementia has not been brought to the funeral, try to be understanding of the difficult decision taken by the family. Do not be judgemental, because the decision will not have been taken lightly, or without some sadness.